We have moved on well over 100 years from the time of Amos, and the world is a very different place. No longer are the Assyrians the dominant power, it is now the Babylonians, with that well-known character Nebuchadnezzar on the throne. Jerusalem with its splendid Temple has been besieged but not yet ransacked and many of the people taken away to Babylon to spend a life in captivity as slaves. As far as we can calculate, we are in the year 605 BC. Nebuchadnezzar is no fool however; he sets about harnessing the brightest and best of the Israelites and trains them to be Civil Servants. Enter Daniel, the prophet of God, training to be an Administrator in the Babylonian Empire!
v 17. God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.
No doubt Daniel, and his three friends, had an intensive course in Babylonian culture. Basically it was a three year degree course, with language, literature and principles of Empire Management as its core. But God was tutoring Daniel too, giving him particular skill in understanding dreams and visions. And all four of them went on a special diet; you can’t make claims for it being just a vegetarian diet as it is likely that they felt the meat was compromising faith because it had been offered to idols in some sacrificial ceremony. Their stand on this principle was accepted, and they ended up healthier-looking than the meat-eaters. Their final exam was an oral one, conducted by the King himself, and it seems as if the four friends came out top of the class list. No small-time job in a backwater of the Empire for them, no counting bags of corn or reporting on the building projects set up by the King; no, the best graduates were put to work in the Palace. So God, in a thoroughly subversive plan, puts four Hebrew slaves at the administrative heart of the great Babylonian Empire!
Of course, the King gets round to consulting them on vital matters of state – the ones needing great wisdom and insight. Before long we find ‘Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom. (v 20)
God has a plan even for the Babylonian Empire and its powerful King!